Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Name: Aaron Levin
Location: Baltimore, Maryland USA
  I was on the ulpan and then a volunteer at Ein Gev from November, 1969 to March, 1971, with three months off in the summer of 1970 to work on an archaeological excavation. I mostly worked in the bananas and dates. I’ve returned to Israel many times over the years since and have always visited Ein Gev. I just spent three weeks in the country and I thought my fellow ex-volunteers might be interested in what the kibbutz is like today. (I’m grateful to Dina Hoffman, who grew up on Ein Gev, for many of the details below.)

The whole kibbutz movement has changed since most of us were there. Many have become totally privatized, essentially turning into small villages of homeowners. Ein Gev has largely resisted that trend. People do get salaries now and have to pay for things like food out of their earnings. Many young people, either new or returning children of members, are coming to the kibbutz, but they have to buy land and build their own houses. The dining room is now only open for lunch and is closed on Saturdays, but holiday celebrations still bring out most kibbutz members. (Because of my personal schedule I did not get to the dining room during meal hours.) 

Ein Gev’s economy still largely revolves around bananas, dates, the dairy herd, and tourism. The latter includes a large holiday village south of the kibbutz and an expanded (since my day) fish restaurant next to the harbor. However, there are also extensive groves of lichees, mango, and grapefruit. Ein Gev still has a small group of volunteers, with many coming from Asia.

The tall palm trees still stand by the shore of the Kinneret, but the lake has been extremely low for years, due to a lack of rainfall coupled with increased use of lake water. The old airplane has been repainted and maybe made a little safer to climb on. You can drive most of the way up to Sussita now. The top has been excavated by archaeologists for a number of years and there are very impressive Roman and Byzantine structures now visible. All in all, while there are some new buildings here and there, I’d say Ein Gev still resembles the place we recall from our days there in the 1970s.